Foundations: Supporting Families is based in Chatham, in the heart of Medway and offers an excellent service to its clients in a safe, welcoming and encouraging environment. It is housed in a large three-storey building, very close to transport links of trains and buses and with several car parks nearby. The centre offers supervised, supported and handover contact, in a well-resourced, comfortable and safe environment.
The building is really welcoming on the inside although from the outside the only visible clue as to its purpose is a large logo on a first-floor window. It is clean, attractively decorated, and the individual contact rooms are extremely comfortable and well equipped. One of them has a separate kitchen so that families may bake should they wish to, and all have a table at which to eat or play games in addition to a comfortable sofa. The contact rooms are on three floors so there are a fair number of stairs, though these are all provided with stair gates. Anyone with mobility problems is allocated a room on the ground floor. Anyone using a wheelchair is offered a place at an alternative venue. Other disabilities are discussed at the pre-visit and appropriate provision made wherever possible.
Two staff are allocated to families so that there is always a familiar face for parents and children and to enable trust and a positive working relation to develop. These staff are also responsible for pre-visits and risk assessments assisted by the coordinator who leads by example ensuring the highest of standards.
The children’s booklet is full of reassurances, and information about what to expect as well as an acknowledgement of how they might be feeling after a separation. Pre-visits are an essential part of the preparation; children can choose the room they would like to use, meet their contact supervisor and ask questions as appropriate. There are age-appropriate feedback forms for them to complete so they can contribute to the reviews which take place after six sessions.
All staff have children as their primary focus, but the managers additionally see that their staff are an extremely valuable resource and invest well in their wellbeing and development to ensure a positive experience for children and their parents. The administration is professional, well organised, thorough and the clarity this brings to the processes contributes to the success of the service which has been transformed into a very special place – more like a home than a centre.